Everyone thought Chip Ganassi Racing was crazy when they added downforce to their four car entry prior to the start of the Firestone 600 at the Texas Motor Speedway. Entering the second oval of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series, CGR appeared to be off the necessary pace to cut it against Team Penske, who defeated them in the Indy 500 two weeks ago and did so again in qualifying at TMS on Friday. However, it would be the former driver from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s squad who would get the last laugh as Scott Dixon redeemed himself from his late race fade at the Brickyard to earn his second win of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series on Saturday night.
Ganassi’s chances at victory did not look nearly as bright through the first quarter of action in the 600 kilometer, 248 lap event on the 1.5 mile quad oval layout, as it was essentially an exhibition race for the Captain Roger Penske’s super quartet, as they at one point held the top four places in the field. However, as the green flag runs increased in length, the pace scenario shifted as Tony Kanaan surged from fifth to first, followed by his teammate Dixon, who led more laps than anyone else at Indy, yet faded to a disappointing fourth place result at the checkered flag.
As Ganassi’s team leaders took over, a new greater wearing tire run by Firestone at this event, rewarded CGR’s extra downforce strategy and punished Penske’s low downforce plan of attack. Although Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya would survive to finish third and fourth on Saturday, the Firestone 600 could be viewed as the turning point in the battle for the points championship as reigning title holder Will Power, struggled with a loose race car following the one and only caution of the race on lap 68 for debris to the finish, settling for a 13th place effort. The bad finish means his Penske teammate Montoya will increase his points lead further as the series heads north of the 49th parallel to the Exhibition Place street circuit in Toronto, Canada next weekend.
For the second straight oval round, Chevrolet had a clear performance edge on Honda, despite evidence pointing to a more even fight based on the starting lineup. Andretti Autosport, despite the lack of pace used clever fuel strategy to claim a pair of top six finishes on the evening as Marco Andretti scored a fifth place result and Carlos Munoz was sixth at the finish. Another Honda runner, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was equally stout at Texas, as Ryan Briscoe who replaced the injured James Hinchcliffe this weekend, ran as high as fourth at the race’s midpoint before settling on the eighth position in the final order. Teammate James Jakes would finish one spot behind the Australian in ninth, while Bryan Herta Autosport’s rookie driver Gabby Chaves rounded out the top ten.
Among other notables on Saturday, Charlie Kimball backed up his third place effort at the Indy 500 by placing seventh at Texas, while race evening was a nightmare for CFH Racing, who saw both of their drivers Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden fail to reach the finish due to mechanical failures.
The event’s proceedings started with grand approval from spectators on Saturday, as via satellite a recovering Hinchcliffe gave the command for the 23-car field to start their engines. With Ryan Briscoe bound for Le Mans next weekend, Conor Daly will once again take over for Hinchcliffe next week in Toronto.